WASHINGTON — Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested only 35 migrants targeted as part of an operation targeting families with court-ordered removals, that President Donald Trump had touted on Twitter, the agency announced Tuesday.
The raids were planned to target around 2,000 migrant families who had been ordered removed by an immigration judge, but the latest numbers show the arrests fell far short of that goal.
Of the 35 migrants arrested as part of Operation Border Resolve, 18 were family members and 17 were others who were encountered during an operation, said acting ICE Director Matthew Albence in a call with reporters Tuesday.
Trump insisted last week that the raids had been “very successful.”
Albence said the arrests occurred nationwide, but he refrained from providing information on where or when the arrests took place when pressed by reporters.
He cited a tropical storm that moved through the Gulf of Mexico, officer safety, and increasing attention on the raids among the challenges faced by the agency. Still, Albence indicated that ICE will continue to target migrant families who have been ordered removed.
“We’re patient and we’ll continue to pursue these cases so they may have escaped detection for a short period of time but we’re going to continue to be out there working these cases,” Albence said.
While the latest arrests didn’t materialize as expected, they still instilled fear in the immigrant community.
Undocumented immigrants across the country braced themselves for the raids this month. They called hotlines, stayed home from work, and posted signs by doors inside their homes telling them what to do if ICE agents show up.
Advocacy groups also canvassed neighborhoods, handing out fliers telling people what to do if ICE agents showed up at their door.
The New York Times first reported the apprehension numbers.
As of May 13, ICE arrested 934 migrants, 35 of whom were part of Operation Border Resolve, which targeted families with court-ordered removals. “The 934 arrests were made in a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach to interior enforcement,” a Homeland Security official said, adding that the majority had criminal convictions.
In 2017, ICE apprehended 650 individuals during a four-day operation, dubbed Operation Border Guardian/Border Resolve, which targeted families and unaccompanied children. According to the agency, it was the second iteration of the operation which had also taken place at the start of 2016 following an uptick in families and unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally.
Albence cited the previous iterations of the operation and noted the difference with the latest effort targeting families was that they were on an expedited docket created last year.
So far, Trump has deported fewer people than his predecessor, President Barack Obama. According to ICE statistics, 256,085 people were deported in fiscal year 2018, up from 226,119 removals in fiscal year 2017.
That’s still significantly less than the number of people deported during fiscal year 2012, when the Obama administration deported more than 400,000 people.
Staffing limitations and budget constraints generally limit how many people the US can detain and deport — and how quickly that process happens. While the Trump administration has said it still focuses on criminals, there was an uptick in the number of people arrested by ICE without criminal records. Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor.
In Trump’s first year, ICE arrested 109,000 criminals and 46,000 people without criminal records— a 171% increase in the number of non-criminal individuals arrested compared to 2016.